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The Phytochemical Diversity of Cannabis: Exploring this ‘Potpourri’ of Potential for Development of Cannabinoid-based medicines

Abstract: Cannabis has historically been understudied as a natural source of bioprospecting and drug development; however, with burgeoning access to medicinal cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, increasing appreciation for its phytochemical diversity is starting to turn towards pipelines for pharmaceutical development. Aside from the major phytocannabinoids ?9-THC (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), cannabis contains over 100 distinct phytocannabinoids and many hundreds of terpenes, in addition to fatty acids, stilbenoids and unique and novel flavonoids. Preclinical studies have identified biological activity of many of these compounds in areas as diverse as modifying pain, inflammation, neurodegeneration and cancer, amongst others, with some derivatives now entering clinical trials. Debate centres on the individual bioactivity of these minor components and their therapeutic synergy with THC and CBD in the whole plant extract (so-called ‘entourage effect’), but also in their unknown pharmacology, efficacy and safety, especially with many phytocannabinoids showing bioactivity in the absence of any appreciable activity towards the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system. Dr Smid will explore the chemical diversity of phytocannabinoids and other novel cannabis phytochemicals and discuss both the potential and limitations around both medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid-based drugs as new medicines.

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